Ofsted highlights concerns over joint commissioning of SEND support

Neil Puffett
Monday, July 24, 2017

Ofsted inspectors have raised concerns about the joint commissioning of support for children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) in two separate local authority areas.

Inspectors found that in both Brent and Telford and Wrekin, despite a number of positives, each area had issues with the way agencies worked together to provide support.

In Brent, the joint commissioning of services were found to be "at an early stage of development". The "fragmented approach" was causing gaps in services, and was highlighted as a "significant concern".

"The local area does not have a cohesive strategy to ensure that all children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities and who need therapy services are assessed quickly and access treatment," a letter outlining the findings of the inspection states.

Meanwhile, in Telford and Wrekin, arrangements for the joint commissioning of services for children and young people with SEND were found to be "too variable".

"Leaders do not use the joint strategic needs assessments to identify older children's and young people's needs well," the inspection letter states.

"As a result, leaders are unable to consistently commission and deliver services effectively and efficiently. The role of parents and carers at this strategic level is also lacking."

However, inspectors did find a number of positives in each local authority area.

Inspectors said there is a clear will, drive and determination in Telford and Wrekin from the director of children's services (DCS) and other leaders to improve the provision for children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities.

"As a result, the outcomes and services are rapidly improving," a letter outlining the findings states.

It adds that, despite being new to their posts, leaders at Telford and Wrekin, including the DCS, recognised that the implementation of the SEND reforms was too slow.

In light of this, in the summer term 2016, the local area restructured its management arrangements and appointed key staff to lead on education, health and care policy and practice.

"As a result of these improvements, there is a significant increase in the pace of change and in the effectiveness of provision for children and young people and their families," the letter states.

"The training and support for staff have also improved, although there is some way to go until training is good enough."

Inspectors also found that the local area is on target to complete the transition of statements of special educational needs to education, health and care plans by April 2018.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of special educational needs coordinators in schools are qualified teachers and have the necessary experience or qualifications to carry out their role effectively.

However, inspectors did warn that the "tell it once" culture in Telford and Wrekin is not well developed.

"This means that children and young people and their families often have to tell their story repeatedly, even to staff in the same service at follow-up appointments."

In Brent, inspectors found that strong commitment from senior leaders across the local authority is improving outcomes and services for children and young people - with the local children's trust board chaired by the director of children's services who ensures that improving education and care outcomes for children and young people is at the heart of their work.

However, a lack of capacity at a senior level at the clinical commissioning group (CCG) was found to have blunted the impact of the SEND reforms.

"The CCG has not yet appointed a designated medical officer and the role remains unfilled," the inspection letter states.

"Consequently, health outcomes for children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities have not been given sufficient priority."

Meanwhile, some groups of children and young people who have SEND do not have their health or therapy needs met effectively.

"There is no access to speech and language therapy in some provisions and there is insufficient occupational therapy," the letter states.

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